Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Honduras Culture and Politics: An ending and a beginning

With the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, boz suggests, the Honduran coup has ended.

Certainly, it is this inauguration that has led to the end of the direct domination of Honduran governance by Roberto Micheletti.

We have already noted that any expectation that this transition will reconcile polarized parties in Honduras, will end the quest by a variety of interested groups for constitutional reform, or erase from historical memory the events of the past months, is unrealistic.

But we agree that it is no longer the same situation, and thus, Honduras Coup 2009 has reached an end. But one that also marks a new beginning for us.

Like boz and Greg Weeks at Two Weeks Notice, we think that Honduras is entering a critical period when it would be well if the world continued to pay attention. And like the author of IKN, we are half-expecting the world to turn its collective back and ignore Honduras once more.

And that means that our mission remains: to address "the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras" and to continue to call attention to the writing of Honduran writers and scholars who are best positioned to place the struggle to come into broader context.

So we invite you to join us at our new blog, Honduras Culture and Politics. There we intend to continue to foreground the intersection of culture in all its forms with events that involve differentials of power.

We know that many readers of this blog will want to be kept up to date on what happens to the major players who dominated the last seven months, and we will cover developments there. We intend to keep track of stories we have been following-- the devastation of the economy, the distortion of the legal system, the recognition or lack thereof of human rights violations, and the politicization of cultural policy.

But we also hope that people who originally began paying attention to Honduras this last year solely due to a breakdown in constitutional order may have gained an interest in the country that will make it worth a few moments a day to see what we find interesting and worth presenting to you with context, analysis, and yes, opinion.

And if not: thank you for being part of this project. We will continue to support our friends and colleagues in Honduras in every way possible. We will continue to prize the new colleagues we have come to know throughout the world who are dedicated to progressive agendas and not disheartened by the struggle. This has been a transformative year for us and for many of our close colleagues and friends, and we appreciate those readers who were not willing to settle for the simplifications and misrepresentations of mainstream media.

The Puppet Master Pulls The Strings

If there was any doubt that the United States is orchestrating the political choreography going on in Honduras right now, it should be put to rest. Arturo Valenzuela, representing the United States at Porfirio Lobo Sosa's inauguration, told the press today that the United States has not made any decision about restoring aid to Honduras yet. "We haven't made any determinations yet," said Valenzuela. "The new president of Honduras has taken the country in the right direction," Valenzuela added after Lobo Sosa talked both about establishing a government of reconciliation, and establishing a truth commission in his first 100 days in office, both of which Valenzuela called "essential elements" to the restoration of democratic order in Honduras. "Things are moving pretty much in the right direction."

Zelaya En Route to Dominican Republic

Manuel Zelaya Rosales went by car from the Brazilian embassy to Toncontin International Airport about 20 minutes ago and arrived at the airforce base there. He was accompanied by his wife, a daughter, Rasel Tomé and escorted by President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, fresh from his inauguration ceremony, President Colom of Guatemala, and President Fernandez of the Dominican Republic. At the same time, the other people within the Brazilian embassy who were Zelaya supporters left the embassy without incident, La Tribuna reported. At the airport was a large crowd organized by the Frente de Resistencia to see him off. Crowd photos showed that there were many thousand people gathered peacefully there. At the air force base the Zelayas and Tomé boarded a twin engine Embraer jet, which has just taken off for the Dominican Republic.

Update 2:35 pm PST: The spokesperson for President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala is denying that Colom attended Lobo Sosa's inauguration and accompanied Zelaya to Toncontin Airport as various Honduran newspapers have reported today.

Update 4:21 pm PST: Zelaya has arrived in the Dominican Republic. La Tribuna reports that General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez was at the Airport to see Zelaya off. "Political phenomena are one thing, another is the friends you keep," Vasquez Velasquez told the press.

Thanks to our good friends in the Honduran anthropological and historical research community for the photo reproduced here of the long line of marchers headed to the airport to see Mel Zelaya off.

More US spin on Honduras...

is brought to you by Voice of America, which starts its story from this morning with the following headline and tagline:
Honduran Congress Grants Zelaya, Coup Plotters Amnesty

Supreme Court also clears military of criminal charges; both moves seen as steps toward national reconciliation before President-elect Lobo takes office Wednesday.
Really? seen as "steps toward national reconciliation" by whom?

From the very first version of the US-inspired San Jose Accord, there has been a proposal for amnesty in the agreements that were proposed to end the coup.

Just as consistently, both sides in Honduras have rejected the call for amnesty. Some English-language commentaries suggested this was due to the fierce animosity between the two sides, and the desire by both to keep open the possibility for revenge prosecution.

But as we are seeing now, the issue for Hondurans is actually a good deal more complex than amnesty/no amnesty. Papered over in the VOA story is the continued uncertainty about the status of the additional bill of charges against President Zelaya, produced after the installation of the coup regime, which are not covered by this amnesty. The amnesty, as we noted in the previous post, is for specific identified crimes, those considered "political" or connected to them.

The debate in congress and the party-line split vote reveal major disagreement about the best way toward "national reconciliation" within the Congress itself.

What we are seeing in the spin given these moves by VOA is the US perspective. The US insists that Honduras go through a theatrical performance of enacting the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord even though that brokered compromise absolutely failed and is utterly irrelevant now. One hopes the US State Department doesn't suffer the illusion that Zelaya will not be prosecuted when he eventually returns to Honduras, because if so, they will likely be disappointed.

It is perhaps not too much to treat the VOA article as a proxy for how the US State Department would like to rewrite the story of the coup. From that perspective, two further things leap out.

First, in reporting on the shameless use of the Supreme Court as a mechanism to cleanse the Armed Forces of all responsibility for their actions on June 28, the VOA states that the Court found that the Armed Forces "acted to preserve peace in Honduras". That is certainly part of the court's argument; but by selecting that piece, and leaving out the part about the Armed Forces not acting out of "malice", the VOA gives a tweaked impression of the arguments being offered to justify the Armed Forces violating the Constitution as well as exceeding the Supreme Court warrant produced to justify their actions.

Bad enough that good intentions alone can clear the military of wrong-doing (thus creating a precedent for future interventions in government "to preserve peace". Are you listening, Pepe?) But perhaps it would be worth paying attention to the fact that the Honduran stakeholders feel there is something more involved: the question of whether people were motivated not just by their better angels, but by "malice". This is not a conflict that will be sanitized by formalized actions.

Which is, in essence, what the Congressional debate over "amnesty" showed. In our post from yesterday, we simply reported that the Liberal party abstained. The real story is more complicated, as Tiempo reported in the article we linked to in the previous post:

The Liberal Party abstained from voting because they could not come to agreement, since only 8 had defined a position (five against and three in favor), while among the rest there were diverse positions on the sense that it was necessary to know in depth the reach of the project [of amnesty], to socialize the decision more, to listen first to the Truth Commission and then consult the people in a plebiscite.
(For the public consultation observers out here, that would be consultar el pueblo en un plebiscito...)

In other words: the Liberal Party congress members are wary of how the Honduran public will react. As the party that occupied both sides in the coup, they have been burned the most by the political fallout. And they are worried about who this will affect, what the public will think about it, and how it will harmonize with the expected Truth Commission. Better to get the public to ratify it and relieve the political pressure.

And the second thing that leaps out in the VOA article: even to the bitter end, the English language media still think the real cause of this coup was a non-existent attempt to prolong the current Presidential term in office; as the last sentence of this meretricious piece of writing sums up the whole sordid seven months
Mr. Zelaya's opponents say he was ousted because he was trying to illegally change the constitution to extend his term in office. [emphasis added]
And VOA, like the US State Department, gives those "opponents"-- the architects of the coup-- the last word.

[Nerdy word usage aside here: technically, the verb "socializar" has two meanings, the first to privatize something, as in State seizure of property, and the second
Promover las condiciones sociales que, independientemente de las relaciones con el Estado, favorezcan en los seres humanos el desarrollo integral de su persona

To promote the social conditions that, independently of relations with the State, favor in human beings the integral development of their persons.
The closest to the sense here would be that the Liberal Party congress members feel the need to promote the idea of amnesty among Honduran society, to introduce it as a social value that presumably they are not sure already exists. In other words, they are dubious that amnesty is part of the Honduran habitus.

How badly can the press distort Honduras news?

Infinitely, it would seem.

Late Tuesday, Reuters reports say, the Honduran Congress voted an amnesty for José Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

Reuters news wire headlined its story "Zelaya to exit Honduras in win for coup leaders". According to Reuters, Zelaya is headed into "exile" although the "political amnesty" voted by Congress would not affect "the criminal charges hanging over him".

Only one problem with this account: it isn't quite accurate.

As reported in a story posted at 12:24 AM (Honduras time) in Tiempo,
The National Congress last night approved amnesty for political crimes and the common crimes connected to them before and after the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya, but did not include acts of corruption such as the use of State resoures to support the "cuarta urna" [campaign], nor violations of human rights such as homicides, tortures, and other outrages against demonstrators.
Explicitly listed as included in the amnesty were the following crimes:

Delitos de traición a la patria.
Delitos contra la forma de gobierno.

Abuso de autoridad.
Violación de los deberes de los funcionarios.
Usurpación de funciones.

Of these, traición, delitos contra la forma de gobierno, abuso de autoridad, and usurpación de funciones (treason, offenses against the form of government, abuse of authority, and usurpation of functions) are the specific crimes included in the petition against President Zelaya submitted to the Supreme Court, which should mean that the original arrest warrant against him is now moot.

But these are also the most likely crimes with which the de facto regime and other coup participants could have been charged. So the bill passed by Congress actually is at least as much about protecting the authors of the coup as about achieving some sort of reconciliation. The addition of sedition, terrorism, and disobedience, not part of the warrant against Zelaya raises the question, who exactly is being helped by this part of the new law?

Even more forcefully pushing the idea that everything is now just fine in Honduras, the Washington Post headlines its story "New Honduran leader to take office, ending turmoil".

How easy is that! all that unrest just melting away...

Too bad that coverage of the actual Congressional action exposes that as wishful thinking, even if we only take into account continued controversy within the elected national government (and ignore for the moment the existence of a well-organized Resistance sworn to continue advocating for constitutional reform).

Again as reported in Tiempo, the bill passed by the Congress drew not a single vote from the Liberal party, which abstained en masse, while the UD party members voted against it.

Congress member Marvin Ponce said that "practically, the golpistas are pardoning their victims". This was in reaction to the incorporation in the prologue to the bill of statements exonerating Roberto Micheletti, the members of Congress who illegally elevated him to power, and the Armed Forces from having violated the Constitution or committed a coup.

As UD party congress member Sergio Castellanos said, “congress members cannot self-pardon for the coup d'etat, they cannot pardon those who assassinated more than 100 persons, those that converted a city into a concentration camp."

The National party urged the Congress to act because it is what the international community has demanded as a condition to restart aid. Other parties remained unconvinced of the idea, with many suggesting Congress should wait for the truth commission mandated by the San Jose-Tegucigalpa Accord to "say what it was that really happened and who were the guilty parties".

So no, the inauguration isn't going to make the whole coup go away magically. No matter how much the English-language media try to cast Pepe Lobo as a charismatic leader destined to heal the nation.

The first sentence of the Post's story could have be describing the 2006 inauguration:
A conservative rancher is being sworn in as Honduras' new president...
Remember when it was Zelaya who was the new conservative rancher president? No? well, don't worry: neither does the amnesiac English-language press.

The Post continues:
The left-leaning Zelaya said he would accept that he was no longer president - but only the moment his four-year constitutional term officially ended Wednesday.
Um... OK: President Zelaya at least knows that he is no longer President when his term ends, even if the Post seems surprised by this. It would be nice if I were sure that the Post understands that he is still President now, even if he is kept prisoner by an illegitimate regime. Apparently, they were expecting maybe that Zelaya would insist he was still President? Noting that the November election was illegitimate isn't the same as arguing for the extension of his own term in office...

But even a broken clock is right twice a day. The Reuters story concluded
As a sign that Honduras is trying to erase memories of the coup, a Supreme Court judge cleared military leaders of any wrongdoing on Tuesday after prosecutors accused them of abuse of power for rousting Zelaya from his bed at gunpoint.
To "erase memories of the coup".

That does sound like a pretty good description of what the Court was hoping to accomplish.

Somehow, I don't believe that the Honduran people will actually be forgetting this past seven months anytime soon.

But at least the Supreme Court has relieved them of having to confront what has happened. Much better to suppress those memories and live in denial.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lobo Will Accompany Zelaya to Airport

The Spanish website ABC reported late this afternoon that Porfirio Lobo Sosa will accompany Manuel Zelaya Rosales from the Brazilian Embassy to Toncontin International airport in Tegucigalpa after Lobo Sosa's inauguration. Lobo Sosa will be accompanied by President Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, and President Colom of Guatemala. Lobo Sosa said:

"Can you imagine beginning a government with a president in an embassy? Locked in there? Its not right; its not dignified for a president."

Lobo Sosa also assured the press that the wording on the safe-conduct had been vetted by public prosecutor and two justices of the supreme court, and that it had been made known to the new Congress.

Valenzuela to Attend Lobo Sosa Inauguration

The US Embassy in Honduras has confirmed that Arturo Valenzuela will arrive in Honduras today to attend Porfirio Lobo Sosa's inauguration tomorrow, La Tribuna reported today. Also attending will be José Fernandez, and Craig Kelly. Fernandez is the State Department's Assitant Secretary for Economics, Energy, and Business Affairs. Hugo Llorens, US Ambassador to Honduras, noted that Fernandez's presence "is an important message about the reestablishment of US-Honduras relations with respect to business, financial, development, and investment."

Later this afternoon, the Valenzuela and the US delegation, along with a Canadian delegation, will meet with Manuel Zelaya Rosales in the Brazillian Embassy to finalize Zelaya's plans for exit from the Brazillian Embassy tomorrow.

Charges Dismissed Against Military

It will come as no surprise to our gentle readers that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jorge Rivera Aviles, dismissed charges brought by the public prosecutor, Luis Rubi, against the military high command for forcibly exiling President Manuel Zelaya Rosales from Honduras on June 28.

"While there is a prima facie case and recognition by the accused of being responsible for the acts that the Attorney General identifies as crimes, in the absence of intent he has not been able to establish full proof of the commission of crimes."

Rivera Aviles argued that they acted in defense of democracy. In the legal brief dismissing the charges, Tiempo reported today, Rivera Aviles sites the grave risk to the public order, the expected loss of many lives, and the violent actions of Zelaya supporters. He also cited the lack of a safe, secure place to hold Zelaya. General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez told Radio America, "we are thoroughly pleased." The public prosecutor's office announced it will appeal.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Amnesty Tomorrow?

Processo Digital reported this morning that the new Congress will deliver and vote on an political amnesty bill tomorrow. This claim was voiced by the host of Frente a Frente TV program, Renato Alvarez. He reports that a meeting over the weekend that included the new head of Congress, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and Lobo Sosa, but not the public prosecutor, Luis Rubi, resulted in agreement to move forward immediately on this legislation.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The State Department Muddies The Waters

Yesterday Phillip Crowley said in the daily press briefing:

"In Honduras, we welcome de facto leader Micheletti’s decision to step down and see that as a positive step that will advance the process of national reconciliation in Honduras. And we look forward to working with the government of President-elect Lobo and note that important work remains to be done to reestablish democratic and constitutional order in Honduras, and we continue to – we will work with the new government in Honduras on full implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords."

First some context. This was part of a prepared statement Crowley read at the start of the press briefing, not an ad-libbed response to a question.

As the gentle reader will already know from our previous post on what Micheletti said in his announcement the other day, he did not step down or otherwise remove himself from power; he merely has removed himself from the public eye.

As if on cue, Micheletti popped up yesterday after the State Department statement hit the Honduran papers to reiterate he was still in control of the de facto government.

So why would the State Department make a statement perpetuating the inaccurate portrayal of Micheletti's actions? After all, major US newspapers quickly corrected their language to ensure readers knew Micheletti had not resigned. Are they just using sloppy language to describe what Micheletti's position is?

I think we can rule out the use of sloppy language. This was a written statement, not an answer to a question made in passing. Professional diplomats need to use language which conveys all the nuances of their position. The speaker, Phillip Crowley, who is Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, is a professional. As the public voice of the State Department, he would use precise language in formal statements to the press.

Likewise I believe we can rule out shoddy translation. In November, the State Department used a less misleading translation of the same words. Robert Wood, deputy department spokesman, in speaking about Micheletti's last "leave of absence" (his words) before the November election, was clear that the State Department understood the nature of Micheletti's statement. At the time the State Department made positive noises about it.

Wood said of that November action by Micheletti:

"Well, as I think many of you are aware, there was a statement made last night by Mr. Micheletti about taking a leave of absence. And we welcome that he is going to take a leave of absence and expect its prompt implementation."

Micheletti used the same language to describe the present "leave of absence" as the last one, so presumably the State Department fully comprehends what it entails, especially since they asked him to do it the first time, in November.

So why say that Micheletti "stepped down" when he did not? This advances the spin the State Department is trying to create to make it more acceptable for them to carry out their recognition of Porfirio Lobo Sosa as legitimate president of Honduras and return to the status quo, resuming US AID aid, and encouraging other governments and international lending institutions to resume aid and lending to Honduras.

In essence, the State Department is putting the best face on a bad situation. And Micheletti is not playing along.

The majority of world governments have made it a condition of recognition that Lobo Sosa not receive power from the illegitimate and unrecognized government of Roberto Micheletti.

With the statement that began this post, the State Department is creating confusion about whether that condition has been met. Crowley, by describing Micheletti's move as "stepping down", suggests that a condition the international community has insisted on for recognizing the new government in Honduras has been met, when it has not.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Honduran Resistance Will Continue

In the weeks since the November election, the English language press has gone silent about the Honduran resistance. But that does not mean the Honduran resistance has disappeared. During a march in Tegucigalpa at the beginning of this month, Tiempo reported, some speakers called for the Frente to form a political movement or alternate political party. But this is not the main goal of the Resistance movement.

Inside Costa Rica reports that the National Resistance Front has called for marches on January 27 to protest the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, whose projected administration is characterized as "the continuation of the dictatorship of the oligarchy." Anyone who was hoping that the inauguration of Lobo Sosa would end Honduran dissent will obviously find themselves disappointed.

The Frente stated that the goal of demonstrations is to "insist on the demand of a national constituent assembly, popular and democratic, to restore Honduras." This demand will not go away.

As in previous demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, the beginning point for the planned march there January 27 will be the Universidad Nacional Pedagogica. Marchers will apparently face increased security according to reports in pro-coup El Heraldo:
Álvarez affirmed that there will be strong security measures, with police and military agents, in ten cities of Honduras.
This presumably includes San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city in Honduras, site of a second march called for by the Resistance. Another report published by Heraldo, after describing security at the stadium where the inauguration will take place, commented that

It is planned to develop operations in the barrios and colonias of the capital, as well as in all the cities of the country. The Armed Forces have placed at the disposal more than 2700 members just for the capital. An equal number is that of the police.

Special operations will be developed beginning in the next hours on all the frontiers of the country.

In respect to the demonstrations, such as that programmed by the zelayists for the 27th of January, the police authorities reminded that, based on the Law of Co-existence, they should be notified with 24 hours of advance notice of the realization of the same and their trajectory.

(The Law referred to, for those who do not remember, was passed by the de facto regime in late October to restrict freedom of assembly that is guaranteed in the Honduran Constitution.)

What kinds of operations are planned for the barrios and colonias of Tegucigalpa-- far from the site of the ceremonial transfer of power, but the heart of the resistance that continued after the de facto regime imposed repeated curfews? what makes it necessary to deploy soldiers and anti-riot police in ten Honduran cities? If the new government were really so universally appreciated, what would be the need for continued repressive militarization?

Needless to say, confrontations with peaceful protestors by military and riot police would mar the attempt to portray the government of Lobo Sosa as the solution to the destruction of civil liberties by the de facto regime.

The decision on continued strategy, starting with the planned marches, was taken by the leaders of the Resistance last weekend. While El Heraldo would like to dismiss the Resistance marches as the work of "zelayistas", the National Resistance Front cannot be reduced to the supporters of any current political party or faction within one.

As reported by Prensa Latina, more than 80 leaders of the resistance, including
Juan Barahona, Carlos H. Reyes, Rafael Alegría, Bertha Cáceres, and Carlos Eduardo Reina, conferred in Siguatepeque, a small city located on the main highway between Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. They reaffirmed the need to resist division along traditional lines of party loyalty, which have dominated Honduran politics.

While much of the English-language press has remained focused on the drama of negotiating a dignified exit for President Zelaya, and on the attempts to distance Lobo Sosa from Micheletti, it is arguable that what will ultimately be most significant for the possibility of effective political transformation in Honduras will be what happens with the Resistance.

On January 27, we will see whether the Resistance mobilizes a sufficiently visible presence to ensure that international media have to take note.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

BCIE To Resume Loans To Honduras

The Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE in Spanish) announced today that it was renewing operations in Honduras, suspended 7 months ago after the coup. Its Board of Directors adopted an accord aimed at normalizing its operations in Honduras. The BCIE will first restart credit and loans to the private sector, then later on, look at resuming credit and loans to the government of Honduras. The BCIE does not recognize the government of Roberto Micheletti Bain.

Micheletti: "This is my last day in the presidency"

As reported in an article datelined San Pedro Sula in Tiempo:
The Council of Ministers will direct the Government of Honduras starting today

The interim president will withdraw from the Government this afternoon, after presiding over the Council of Ministers that will be installed at 2 PM and will assume governmental control.

"This is my last day in the presidency... I will withdraw to my house for the peace of the nation and because I do not want to be an obstacle to the new government", Micheletti confirmed in an interview with a television channel.

"In the coming days I will lower my public profile and I will stand aside so that the new government will have more space to act", said Micheletti, who assumed power the past 28 of June.

So what does this mean?

Well, not necessarily what you might think. The verb used, that we translate "withdraw", is the Spanish "retirarse": a classic "false friend". The temptation to translate it as "retire" is strong, and this is one of the meanings given in dictionaries. But it also is used as well for retreat, withdraw, backtrack, recede, withdraw, and colloquially, "quit work for the day".

So what is Micheletti doing?

Well, in other Honduran news reports, he is quoted explicitly as saying he is not resigning (the verb renunciar). He explicitly compares his current action to the few days before the November election when, under pressure from the US government, to give a sheen of legitimacy to a soured election, he stepped aside, leaving power to his cabinet, and retreated to his own house.

So the English-language headlines should read "Micheletti suspends his direct role in government". Instead, papers like the Washington Post initially reported the story as one of resignation. [Literally corrected between the time I began this post and now!]

We don't expect the English press, or politicians, to catch Micheletti's nuances-- he has shown one great skill throughout the crisis, that of shading his words so that people think he has said one thing when in fact he has said quite another.

What this move obviously is intended to do is to open some space to allow world governments, like that of the US, to attend the inauguration of Lobo Sosa without the embarrassment of being directly associated with Micheletti himself.

So it bears emphasis: Micheletti is the figurehead of the coup. He is not the total problem. The authors of the coup are still in place, comfortably, and will likely be quite visible throughout the inauguration and initiation of the new government. Lobo Sosa is receiving power from an illegitimate government, and nothing Micheletti is doing changes that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

IACHR: De Facto Government Commited Serious Violations of Human Rights

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS has issued a report on human rights violations in Honduras. The report, dated 30 December 2009, and made public only recently, entitled "Human Rights and the Coup D'Etat", concludes that the IACHR was able to confirm serious human rights violations since the June 28 coup, including "deaths, arbitrary declarations of states of emergency, suppression of public demonstrations through disproportionate use of force, criminalization of public protest, arbitrary detentions of thousands of persons, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and grossly inadequate conditions of detention, militarization of Honduran territory, a surge in the incidents of racial discrimination, violations of women’s rights, serious and arbitrary restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, and grave violations of political rights."

They conclude that as a consequence of the disproportionate use of force by security forces, that at least 7 deaths have occurred, and that the internal (Honduran) investigations have made no headway identifying and punishing those responsible. They also conclude that the security forces conducted thousands of unlawful detentions without an order from a competent authority, ignored the rights of those detained, and made no written records of these unlawful detentions.

They further concluded that the materiel used and the strategies that the Army, the Police, and the Cobra Special Strike Force deployed revealed a disproportionate use of force which resulted in inhuman treatment and torture of those detained. These forces discriminated against the Garifuna and members of the gay community, and were responsible for sexual violence against women.

The IACHR specifically cites the illegitimate declaration of a state of emergency as an enabling mechanism for the security forces violence. They singled out the authorization of the security forces to search and confiscate broadcast equipment when, in the opinion of the de facto authorities, the media were engaging in behavior prohibited under existing law as "egregious, arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionate restriction, in violation of international law, of the right of every Honduran to express himself or herself freely and to receive information from a plurality and diversity of sources."

"Based on the American Convention on Human Rights, which the state of Honduras ratified in 1977, the state has an international obligation to prevent violations of human rights and, should they occur, to investigate, try and punish those responsible. Nevertheless, the de facto authorities and the Supreme Court of Honduras consistently deny the existence of those violations. Inactivity and tolerance enable the repetition of human rights violations with impunity."

Finally they conclude that the human rights violations in Honduras are a direct result of the disruption of the constitutional order and that the restoral of the democratic order in Honduras is a requirement for the effective protection and observance of the human rights of all the inhabitants of Honduras.

Still no denunciation of the human rights violations in Honduras by our State Department, who instead announced today that they will participate in the inauguration ceremony for Lobo Sosa on January 27.

Lobo Promises Zelaya Safe Conduct

President-elect Porfirio Lobo Sosa promised today that once inaugurated, he would sign a safe conduct that allowed Manuel Zelaya, his family, and close followers still inside the Brazilian embassy to journey to the Dominican Republic as "distinguished guests", reports El Universal of Mexico. Lobo Sosa and Dominican President Leonel Fernandez signed an accord today agreeing to the safe conduct for Zelaya.

The Honduran online paper, Processo Digital published the full text of the accord. In it Lobo Sosa agrees to form a unity government of national reconciliation, made up of members of the political parties; he agrees to immediately upon taking office sign a safe conduct for Zelaya and his family so that they might have freedom of movement; he agrees to respect human rights and allow Hondurans to enjoy public liberty; and he agrees to allow Zelaya, his family, and inner circle of followers to leave for the Dominican Republic as guests of that country. In exchange, the Dominican Republic's President, Leonel Fernandez, promises to lobby for the removal of sanctions against Honduras placed by the international community and to work to normalize relations with Honduras.

Update 2:00 pm PST: When asked about it moments ago on Radio Globo, Rasel Tomé said he and President Zelaya knew nothing about the agreement.

Update 5:45 pm PST: Dominican President Leonel Fernandez announced he will attend the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa on January 27 and return to the Dominican Republic with Manuel Zelaya and his family and inner circle, La Tribuna reported today in its Minute by Minute column. Telesur reported earlier this afternoon that Manuel Zelaya, once familiar with the accord that Lobo Sosa had signed today in the Dominican Republic, said this was a good move, that Lobo Sosa was distancing himself from the de facto government. Zelaya may travel as he wishes after reaching the Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More US Visa Cancellations

Tiempo reported today that the United States notified three more golpistas that their US visas had been cancelled. Those notified in a letter dated January 15 included Luis Ortez Williams, the de facto Minister of Youth, Myrna Castro, the de facto Minister of Culture, Art, and Sports, and José Rosario Bonano, the de facto Secretary of Public Works, Transport, and Housing.
La Prensa reported on 5 visa cancellations, adding Gabriela Nuñez, de facto Finance Minister, and Micheletti's Chief of Staff. After noting the US government had been encouraged by the work of the Guaymuras dialog that led to the signing of the Tegucigalpa - San Jose Accord, the letter reportedly notes:

"None the less, the Department of State regrets that the de facto government does not wish to involve itself in the process of reconciliation, and so take concrete measures that Honduras can return to the international community."

Myrna Castro said of the cancellation, "if its because of complying with the constitution, I feel honored that they cancelled my visa because it is unprecedented that after having had the internal elections and being just a few days [of turning over power] we have this type of pressure from the international community." Nonetheless, it sickened her that "they continue these foolish pressures." I guess she won't be attending Fashion week in New York this year.

Friday, January 15, 2010

More Than 50 Lifetime Appointments!!

Clarification 1/20/2010

Original post:
The National Congress was feeling generous in its last session, at least towards those who led the coup. They gave more than 50 functionaries lifetime government appointments according to the newspaper Tiempo today. The decree, proposed by the unctuous José Alfredo Saavedra, rewarded not only Roberto Micheletti Bain, but also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jorge Rivera, the Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubi (who is guaranteed 3 percent of the government's budget), and the entire military High Command, among others. According to Tiempo, this security is for more than 45 Ministers, attorneys, directors of autonomous institutes, and the family of Micheletti. The government will, in addition, assume the bill of hiring private guards for all of these people.

Corrupt much?

As pointed out by a keen-eyed critic of this blog, this post over-extended the implications of the original article, which announced "Seguridad vitalicia" (lifetime security), meaning "security guards for life".

So, this is not an extension of the unprecedented appointment for life awarded Roberto Micheletti.

Instead, it is an equally unprecedented and more egregious grant to 50 people-- including Roberto Micheletti; Jorge Rivera, President of the Supreme Court; Luis Rubí; Rubí's assistant attorney, Roy Urtecho; the six members of the Armed Forces High Command; and the 17 ministers and 17 vice-ministers of the cabinet of the de facto regime.

As noted in the original post, the bill authorizes paying for private security guards if those with security for life do not want the police or armed forces to serve in that role.

Among the remarkable things about this unprecedented grant, we would underline the provision of guarantees of lifetime security to members of the government whose appointments are not ending with the installation of the new government (the head of the Supreme Court, for example). And of course, the idea of providing lifetime security guards for every member of the cabinet suggests either a degree of paranoia, or that the de facto regime knows it was not really as universally admired as claimed.

We apologize to readers who were led to imagine that fifty individuals joined Roberto Micheletti in becoming unelected members of the government for life. But we note that in fact this is an unprecedented action that exemplifies what is wrong with the de facto regime.

Military High Command Given Precautionary Measures

The Supreme Court has ruled that while awaiting trial on the abuse of power charges for exiling President Manuel Zelaya, the military high command must physically sign in at the Supreme Court every 2 weeks and must not leave the country. These measures are in place of the arrest that the Public Prosecutor requested. The generals appeared before the court yesterday afternoon but did not speak.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Micheletti has no intention of leaving the stage

As we noted in the previous post, Roberto Micheletti has now been given an extra-constitutional lifetime appointment as congress member. This brings with it a shiny gold medal, as well as income, without the strain of actually being elected. What else it brings remains to be seen.

Not in question now, though, is whether Micheletti will recede from view in order to allow international powers to legitimate the Porfirio Lobo government. Indeed, Micheletti thinks perhaps he should speak to the congress on January 25.

As it turns out, he has a lot to say.

An article published today by Proceso Digital reporting remarks Micheletti made on Canal 10 quotes him as accusing Oscar Arias of being "disrespectful" of Honduras:
each time that he speaks it is to offend my country, it seems that he has a complex to believe that we are a slavish nation where anyone that wants can order us around; we Hondurans are not his slaves
Micheletti reportedly said.

Micheletti assured the listening public that he would not even ask for a special leave of absence for the period of the inauguration, as that, he says, would violate the constitution:
I am not going to step aside, nor am I going to ask permission to step aside temporarily, that is not possible because that would be to violate the constitution, I will do what I have announced previously, I will watch the passage of power from the Casa de Gobierno and in the moment in which Porfirio Lobo is imposed as president, I will get up and go to my house with my family.
Micheletti said that he intends to participate in the first session of the new congress on January 25: there I will give my report on the situation of the country because it is a constitutional duty.

Micheletti also explained that it was Jose Miguel Insulza's fault that things got chilly with the OAS:
he committed to respect the will of the Hondurans, he promised that this matter (the political crisis) was going to be resolved by the Hondurans and he would support that, but when he returned with the chancellors to the country, he came simply to try to impose the idea that we should return Zelaya to power, and that we could not accept because it was a falsehood that he had told us in our private meeting
Lobo Sosa should be gratified to hear that Micheletti does support his intention to renew international relations because in Micheletti's opinion "we should support it and respect it because the space of Honduras has to be opened to the world".

Not that Micheletti has in mind the same thing you or I might imagine. He is talking about economic ties with China, and other potential sources of employment. Apparently, something has caused the economic situation to deteriorate over the last six months. So Pepe has his work cut out for him.

Micheletti was happy to give a shout out to his friends in need:
He said that on the level of countries he is gratified with the aid given during the crisis by nations like Taiwan, Japan and the same United States, which did not stop aiding the nation in the projects already underway. Despite the restrictions given by their governments, the cooperation in projects under execution never stopped and for this he had to thank them, he noted.
Indeed. No sanctions here, folks, move along, nothing to see...

And of course, he thanked the governments of Colombia and Panama, "who when we resorted to ask their advice never denied us, they were an important support and I thank Panama and its president for the petition made in the OAS so that our country can return to that regional venue".

And finally, Micheletti is willing to kiss and make up with the US:
they have committed many errors, but the US people deserve our affection and respect. The clauses for which they take away visas, I don't meet those requirements, and if they determine that some day they are going to return it to me, congratulations, because I have not committed any crime nor am I delinquent.
Such a gentle nature. So wronged, and yet so forgiving.

Micheletti Appointed Congressman For Life

Last night the National Congress appointed Roberto Micheletti Bain a Congressman for life. This was the final act of this golpista Congress before closing its legislative session. The decree was presented in a special ceremony in Congress last night by Manuel Ivan Fiallos, a Micheletti supporter who was re-elected in November.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Arias To Boycott Lobo Inauguration

Oscar Arias, president of Costa Rica, announced today he will not attend the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Arias was among those calling for the international community to recognize the results of the November 29 election. Arias said that Lobo's inability to get Micheletti to resign before January 27 "was a demonstration of weakness that neither Lobo nor the Honduran people deserve.".

Ministers Challenge Military In Supreme Court

A group of Evangelical ministers have challenged the military to explain to the court why they were denied permission to visit President Manuel Zelaya even though they had completed all the paperwork and obtained all the required permissions. Today the Supreme Court accepted the case brought against Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, Jorge Alberto Rodas Gamero, and Mario Hung Pacheco. Justice Omar Galeano Mejia was assigned the case. In addition to getting an explanation from the three accused gentlemen, the judge will rule on the human rights claims made by the evangelical ministers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Amnesty Postponed For Next Congress

El Heraldo reported this evening that the National Congress decided against acting on the proposal for amnesty. Instead it chose to leave it for the next Congress to act, or not. "We felt there needed to be a consensus, and we didn't have time to do that," said PINU Congressman Toribio Aguilera. Ramon Custodio, the human rights commissioner urged that they only take up the question of amnesty after hearing the report of the truth commission.

Porfirio Lobo Sosa, acting on the recommendation of the international community, had urged that this Congress pass an amnesty before he takes office on January 27. While not part of the Tegucigalpa San Jose Accord, an amnesty was one of the original conditions of the San Jose Accord.

Honduras Suspends Payments To BCIE

Business News Americas reported this afternoon that it had confirmed that the de facto government has suspended payments on $405 million in debt with the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE in Spanish).

Posting from my iPhone.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Military Before Supreme Court Thursday

The five generals charged with abuse of authority and illegal extradition by the Public Prosecutor must appear before Justice Jorge Rivera Aviles on Thursday, after which he will decide whether to accept the charges or not. They are scheduled to appear at 2:30 or 3 pm. Because of security concerns, the place they are to meet was not specified by the judge.

"Because of the scope of the audience and because of security concerns, and the shared interests of the parties that will participate and the comfort of those charged, it should be a place that brings together the physical conditions to hold the hearing," said Juan Carlos Sanchez Cantillano, a defense attorney.

In an interview with El Heraldo published today, Romeo Vásquez Velásquez declined to comment on the charges.

Justice Jorge Rivera Aviles gave an interview on the program Grado 33 of Globovision of Venezuela on July 3 in which he said the capture of Zelaya was by a legitimate Supreme Court order, but that the forced exile was a necessity of the time and situation, but was not ordered by the Court. He said of Zelaya "he was disobeying the orders of the court, and that's a crime." How is it less of a crime for the Military to disobey the order of the court? He changed his mind in an interview published in La Tribuna on July 16:

"The expulsion was not ordered in the detention order and because of this we have to look at the necessities at this time, if it was the suitable thing to do, both for the life of the person detained and for national security....we'll have to weigh this later on, once its before the court."

Justice Rivera was also on the commission that nominated the Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubi, in February 2009. Given his interest in the appointment of Rubi, and that he has already pronounced publicly on the facts of the case before him, he should recuse himself, but I won't hold my breath.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Honduras is Broke

Eighteen days after Porfirio Lobo Sosa takes office, the country of Honduras will run out of cash and be unable to pay its debts without the help of international aid, says Gabriela Nuñez. The only way the country has survived the last six months is by living off its cash income and paying its debts off in a prioritized fashion, or rather, not paying some of them. "The most important thing is to comply with the priorities," she said, "even if there are pending payments that remain....its a work from week to week."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Supreme Court Assigns Judge in Military Case

The Supreme Court, after meeting as a whole today, assigned the Chief Justice, Jorge Alberto Rivera, to hear the case presented by the Public Prosecutor against the 5 generals of the military high command and to decide whether the case has merit and can proceed, according to El Heraldo's Minute by Minute column. On Tuesday, the Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubi, filed a complaint with the court accusing the generals of the military high command of "abuse of authority" in forcibly exiling President Manuel Zelaya on June 28. Today lawyers for the generals requested that the court not issue arrest warrants for them since they would be willing to come before the court whenever it requests their presence. Rivera will have six days to review the filing and make a finding.

De Facto Government Can't Make Payroll for January

The Finance Minister for the de facto government, Gabriela Nuñez announced today that she does not currently have access to sufficient funds to pay government employees for January. It all boils down to cash flow. She said she has access to about 400 million lempiras, and needs a total of about 1,500 million lempiras. In addition, she noted that the government has run up large debts with suppliers, including 450 million lempiras for medical supplies, and a further 700 million lempiras owed to road construction and paving contractors. She noted that the priority of the de facto government is to pay employees, and creditors will just have to wait. Nuñez expects that when the sales tax payments are received in mid-January, there might be enough for the government to pay its employees. Micheletti previously had assured us that they had sufficient funds to last through March.

Government Silences Opposition Radio Station

Reporters Without Borders today stated their belief that it was the de facto government of Honduras that silenced the community radio station "Galuma Bimetu" (also known as Radio Coco Dulce) in Triunfo de la Cruz over the weekend. The Garifuna station was broken into, equipment removed, then the building was burned. Reporters Without Borders said "the punishment of the authors of this crime will constitute a test for the government to be inaugurated on January 27." The attack "confirms the consistent danger that the independent media, known for their opposition to the coup against Manuel Zelaya, are under." Reporters Without Borders did not discard the possibility that the station was attacked because of its opposition to the development project known as the "Bahia de Tela", a project which expropriated Garifuna community lands to build a multinational resort in Triunfo. However, they noted that the station has been subjected to previous attacks by the de facto government, including the arrest of the station director, Alfredo Lopez, in August for "being a member of the resistance against the coup."

Lopez Contreras: US Will Resume Aid

The Foreign Minister of the de facto government, Carlos Lopez Contreras, who yesterday assured us that the conversation between Craig Kelly and Roberto Micheletti did not touch on Micheletti resigning, today assures us that Kelly told Micheletti that US aid to Honduras would resume with the inauguration of Lobo Sosa, unconditionally. This contradicts the public statements of Lobo Sosa, who said that Kelly wanted Micheletti to resign by January 15 to facilitate the formation of a government of reconciliation, a requirement of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. Lopez Contreras said Micheletti's resignation was not discussed, and that the purpose of the meeting was for Kelly to tell Micheletti that the US would accept the results of the November election and resume aid to Honduras after Lobo Sosa's inauguration. Kelly left Honduras yesterday without making any public statements about his mission, or its results.

Today the US Embassy in Honduras put out a press release which reads in part:

"Mr. Kelly congratulated "Pepe" Lobo for his election and expressed the will of the United States to work with the new government of President Lobo to help confront the challenges once the Accord has been implemented....Mr. Kelly observed that the punctual implementation of the pending elements of the Accord are the best way to restore the position of Honduras with the international community."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Public Prosecutor Charges Military

La Tribuna reported today that the Public Prosecutor has filed charges against the military high command for forcibly exiling Manuel Zelaya on June 28. The formal charge of "abuse of authority" was filed with the Supreme Court today.

Micheletti Will Not Resign

Roberto Micheletti announced this morning that he will not resign by January 15 as Craig Kelly came to request. Despite the lure of a promise of millions of dollars in aid and restoration of his US visa, La Prensa reports Micheletti declined. He did concede he will not attend Porfirio Lobo Sosa's investiture, and will stay home and watch it on television.

Traveling so only short reports today.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carlos Lara: Amnesty Next Week

Carlos Lara, Secretary of the Honduran Congress, told a local radio station that an amnesty that allows Manuel Zelaya an exit from the Brazilian Embassy would be approved by Congress next week.

"The majority of the groups of Congressmen are in agreement.....There are, in some cases, differences; we don't think that an amnesty is necessary, but for the well being of the country, for peace and tranquility, we place this in front of whether or not we agree [with amnesty] and will approve it."

Lara made his announcement after a reunion of the leaders of the political parties in Congress. Congress itself takes up amnesty on Thursday.

European Union Condemns Killings in Honduras

The European Union, yesterday, issued a press release condemning the assassination resistance members and de facto government supporters and called on authorities in Honduras to conduct a "deep and transparent" investigation. The press release singled out the killings of Karol Cabrera, daughter of a journalist, and Walter Trochez, an LGBT activist and resistance member.

"The European Union reminds the Honduran authorities that they have an obligation to protect human rights, including the freedom of expression, and to guarantee the security of all the people in Honduras."

The National Police have since identified the alleged killers of Karol Cabrera as supporters of a particular soccer team and suggested her killing was over a soccer rivalry. They have yet to make any public statements about the abduction and beheading of Walter Trochez, or any of the more than 15 other LGBT people found killed in a similar fashion since June 28.

The EU president called on Honduras to do "all that it can to guarantee the safety of human rights workers" and to not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender. The US State Department has so far remained silent on these killings.

Craig Kelly in Tegucigalpa

Tiempo reports that Craig Kelly arrived in Tegucigalpa at mid-day to meet at 4 pm with US Ambassador Hugo Llorens and Manuel Zelaya. According to the press, he will also meet with Roberto Micheletti at 10 am tomorrow morning. The Honduran online newspaper, Proceso Digital, reports that Kelly will also meet with Porfirio Lobo Sosa today. This is Kelly's fourth visit to Tegucigalpa since the coup.

Update 1:30 pm PDT: Phillip Crowley announced this afternoon that Kelly's visit is because the US is "weighing" its decisions about future relations with Honduras. Kelly's mission is to facilitate the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord compliance. Crowley told the press that Kelly was sent to "communicate clearly to the diverse sectors that there are still things to be done." Crowley indicated that the US needs to make some decisions about the nature of its relations with Honduras and future assistance. No statement on the State Department website yet.